Mike Ruddock hailed Chris Latham’s European Challenge Cup hat-trick and claims the former Australia international can still improve on his sparkling performance against Petrarca Padova last Saturday.
Latham scored three of Worcester’s eight tries against the Italian minnows, his first after a barren run of six matches since joining the club in the summer.
While Latham has been occupied in defence for most of the Guinness Premiership matches he has played, last weekend’s pool three opener provided him with the chance to showcase his legendary attacking abilities - he did not disappoint.
Two tries in the first half and a jewel-in-the-crown score in the second helped the 33-year-old open his account for Ruddock’s men and lit up a performance that had his director of rugby purring.
“He is a class act,” Ruddock said. “And he’s only going to get better as he beds into our system and gets used to the players around him and their individual qualities.
“He is playing very, very well and the more time he spends with the team and the more involvement he gets in the Premiership he will get more used to that type of rugby.
“It’s not as fast as the Super 14 but it is more physical and Chris has stood up to that very well.”
While the former Wallaby’s arrival had, until last weekend, not brought the try Sixways craved, it has added as much to the squad off the pitch as on it. Indeed, Ruddock has been pleased at how well Latham has slotted into his squad.
“He has been great in defence, under the high ball, making tackles and all the things you would expect of a full back but the way he has taken a leadership role and captained the team in the last couple of weeks has been outstanding,” he said.
“We have to be careful though. We might look to give him a bit of a rest this weekend. It depends on Chris Pennell who is 50-50 to face Bucuresti. He has been playing fantastically but if we do not rest him now we might find he has played every game.”
Whether or not Pennell, who has been used on the wing this season but is primarily a full back, recovers for the trip to Romania, Ruddock is confident he will be able to bring James Collins back on to the flank following a shoulder problem.
He should also be able to recall Miles Benjamin - recovered from the virus that prevented him from travelling to Italy - and Matt Mullan who was rested after several outstanding league performances against the likes of Julian White and Phil Vickery. Whatever happens, Ruddock knows his team is moving in the right direction after a resounding, second consecutive victory.
“The boys played really well,” he said. “Petrarca were quite surprised by what we did to them. I was talking to Ludovic Mercier after the game and he said they’d expected to lose but for us to wear them down towards the end of the game. We actually played some really good attacking rugby with quick ball and we got outside them.”
Worcester might find Bucuresti less hospitable. Warriors travelled to the Romanian capital in November last year and scored only twice in an 18-8 victory. They will be hopeful of a more convincing trip this Sunday.